Tuesday, 28 May 2019

Istanbul day three

The day began badly with some differences of opinion between the two of us. My friend went off to have a Turkish bath and a massage and I stayed in the hotel. At 1.45pm I sat down to have a cheeseburger and a Coke in a restaurant on Akbiyir Street and at 2.13pm my friend came back to the hotel, where I was by this time waiting for her to arrive. I was relieved when she appeared. She had not eaten however and so we left the place and walked up to Divan Yolu Street and went into a restaurant we had seen the day before where they display food in the window.

This form of retail display seems to be standard for Istanbul restaurants of a certain kind. You can pick out the dishes you want to eat, then you sit down at a table inside and have your meal, and then after finishing it you pay for it. Her meal came to 65TL.

Today was different in one respect to the previous day because we saw two enormous police trucks with water cannon nozzles placed on top of them. The trucks were standing at strategic locations near Ayasofya Square with their engines running. There was also a black police vehicle of the kind we had seen the day before roaring along the road next to the Bosphorus.

After the meal we walked along the street and at 3.20pm I saw a man standing near the light rail stop wearing a black T-shirt with “Winter is coming” printed on it in black letters. Five minutes later we entered a sweet shop with the obligatory front display and asked about the goods in the window. The guy behind the counter gave us a small slice of alwar (sesame roll) to try and he also said they sell sujuk (Turkish delight). We went upstairs but the menu they had on the table there didn’t have the same sweets that were in the window, so we got up and left. We walked back up the hill a bit until we got to another sweet shop, and looked at the window display and ordered a selection of sweets, then sat down outside it at a table that had been placed, with others like it, on the pavement. The selection we had chosen included Turkish delight, and there was also a cappuccino for me (38TL). The food came on a plate with two knives and forks and there were nine pieces of sweet on it. It was very sweet indeed and was too much to eat so we got the remaining pieces as take-away.

At 3.50pm we entered the Basilica Cistern and paid for two tickets (20TL each). Downstairs the cavern the Romans built in the time of Justinian I (about 500AD) is pretty spectacular and the Turks heighten the drama by piping in a kind of ancient music so that you feel as though you are in a Fellini movie. Both locals and tourists use the place. We wandered around along the concrete walkway that has been constructed to support visitors and took photos, then at 4.20pm we came back out onto the street via the exit. This brought us to a different street from the one on which we had used to enter  the complex. We headed back toward the hotel and sat down in a beautiful cafe we had seen earlier and had a Turkish coffee and a rose tea (10TL) before getting back to the hotel at 5.17pm.

After resting for a while we left the hotel again at 7.30pm and went into a carpet shop because the tout on the street had given us directions the previous day (which had turned out in the end to be wrong) and he said now that we had promised to go inside to look at the goods on display. We relented and went upstairs to where another man, who had good English, talked to us about the silk carpets including how much work goes into making them and where they come from. The price he asked was high (25,000TL, about A$8500) so we said it was too expensive. He had got us talking about the Australian economy and he seemed to know something about it but the objects on his floor, which another man had unrolled to show us, were just to dear for us to think about. On the way there I had changed more US dollars into lira, and this time it had been US$600 being equal to 3465TL.

We left the store at 8.10pm and went on our way, heading back to the same place my friend had eaten at at lunchtime. We had three dishes with lamb, potato, eggplant, and minced beef predominating. The meal was with two types of rice, one of which was plain white rice and the other of which had been prepared with a kind of tomato sauce. We also got a Coke and an extra bottle of water (a large one), plus a bottle to drink at the table with the meal. The place was full of families breaking their fast, and we also asked the staff working there for the standard plate of salad (cucumber and tomato, grated carrot, and chopped iceberg lettuce) that the other diners were enjoying. The whole lot came to 90Tl, which was very cheap.

After eating we headed further along the street until we came to a cemetery containing marble graves belonging to statesmen of the Ottoman court. Each grave had a plaque on it telling visitors who had been buried there. One of the plaques had “H1335” printed on it but when I got back to the hotel I couldn’t work out what this date referred to as, using the Muslim calendar, it would have placed the construction of the grave in the middle of the 20th century.

We asked some people standing on the steps leading to the street what the things we saw inside the walled enclosure were and eventually came across a youngish man who spoke good English and who was able to help us to understand what we were seeing. Inside there is also a cafe so people go through the space behind the high walls that are on the street, to enjoy a meal in the evenings during Ramadan.

We left the place and walked down the hill toward the hotel but I had the call of nature so we ducked into a cafe at 9.30pm and ordered a piece of cake so I could use the WC. The cake was called “velvet cake” and was made with solid cream with red layers interspersed between them. It cost 18TL. After eating this dessert we walked further and went into some side streets where the touts were busy securing customers for their stores. One of them got annoyed with me when I refused his entreaties and asked me why I was angry. I said I was not but wanted to add in my reply to him that it is impossible two walk 50 metres in Istanbul in some areas without someone calling out to you because they want to get money from your wallet. We got back to the hotel at 10.30pm.

Above: Inside the Basilica Cistern off Sultanahmet Street, Istanbul.

Above: The concrete walkway is visible in this photo along with the marble columns supporting the vaulted ceiling that still supports the street above.

Above: This column has a different design. It is called the "weeping column" because of the eye motif used on it.

Above: The courtyard where we had Turkish coffee and rose tea, near Hagia Sophia square.

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